Sunday, July 07, 2024

In-Flight: Break of Dawn

In Japan, their favorite Jetson must be Rosey, the family’s robotic maid. That is just a guess based on recent pop culture trends. In a few days, Apple TV+ viewers will meet Sunny, the Housebot, in the Japanese-set series named after her. Nanako is an autoboot, but she largely has the same functions. However, she has a much more sci-fi destiny in Tomoyuki Kurokawa’s Break of Dawn, which is available on American Airlines international flights (it never ceases to amaze what you can find on international in-flight entertainment systems).

Yama is crazy about space, but not so enthusiastic about robots, at least judging by his treatment of Nanako. His parents insist she is one of the family, but he acts like she is merely a kitchen appliance. Annoyingly, his friends like her too, because it is advantageous to play video games in “autobot mode.”

Suddenly, while retrieving the errant Yama, Nanako’s system fails. She successfully reboots, but then February Dawn, an alien AI, takes control over her body. As Yama and his friends, Shingo Kishi and Gin Tadokoro, soon learn, his ship crashed on earth over 10,000 years ago. Fortunately, he has gleaned some useful intel from an errant satellite that took on a mind of its own, after colliding with a comet. If Yama and his two cronies can retrieve a missing crystal, they can help him power-up his craft, before it is destroyed, along with the old Stuytown-like apartment building scheduled for demolition, where it is perched, apparently invisible to the naked eye.

When Nanako comes to and beholds the VR-visions February Dawn projects for Yama and his friends, she agrees to help, even though she is not programmed to deceive his parents. That might become an issue later. For the meantime, they need that crystal. They soon discover it is in the possession of Kaori Kawai, an upperclassman at their school, bullied by Kishi’s mean-girl older sister, Wako. That too will be an issue. However, the most surprising revelation for Yama will be the discovery her father and his parents were previously acquainted. They may even know something about February Dawn.

It is weird that
Break of Dawn hasn’t had more screenings in the U.S., if any. Much of the astronomical and VR-projection animation is really cool looking. The teen melodrama might be a little too high in the mix, but in general, it offers a somewhat new and fresh take on AI, while reflecting a can-do attitude in the tradition of classic golden age young adult science fiction. It also builds towards a genuinely moving emotional climax.

The characters are certainly complex and there is no objectionable identity politics or mature content. Dai Sato’s screenplay, based on Tetsuya’s Imai manga is more complex than “
E.T. with AI,” but it would serve as something very much like that for a lot of young sf fans. Recommended as an entertaining, youthful science fiction anime film, Break of Dawn is a nice bonus if you are flying on South American-bound American flights this month.